Marta Maria

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Location: Viljandi, Estonia

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Being a Dad Rules!

This photo was taken last week before I left for San Francisco. Marta knew I was leaving and she held on tight to me. I was afraid it was a bad sign, that because she didn't want me to go, my plane might plummet into the Atlantic Ocean. I had a fantasy that we landed on the water and I swam to sure and walked back in our front door, soaking wet. "Hi honey, I'm home."

I could literally see our block as my plane flew over the peninsula headed far West. It's so weird to be lifted off the ground and put down in a far away place, far far away from one life, where you have a new home for a few days. This is my life. I do it every month.

But I have a confession to make. I almost cried as I saw our house go by. I don't necessarily like being far away from my family. I like it for a little while, but then I miss them. We are supposed to be a unit. I was trying to find Marta something cool in San Francisco, but I decided the coolest thing I can do is take her there one day and show her the seals. We should spend maybe two weeks out there exploring California, especially the parks, and the counties north of the city. It could be a fun trip.

Saturday, February 18, 2006


When Marta was born, she really was something of an empty slate. She looked up at me with the most innocent, awestruck eyes. The first glimpse of her new world. But her term of unworldlyness vanished fast. She's just as likely as me to crawl up on the couch these days, settle down with a piece of bread and some milk and yell "please" at me every time I might distract her from watching the 'train movie' or the 'monkey movie.'

How did my daughter get such an attitude? I think she may have learned it from me. I may be responsible. Because I don't know how to handle a temper tantrum other than making a joke out of it. And because I don't know how to 'discipline' her. There have been a few times that she has slapped me in the face and it has hurt, but I don't know how to make her understand that I am not kidding. She thinks her issi is just one big jokester. I could try and physically tell her no, but I can't hurt her. So it seems like I am playing. And because I am a pretty sarcastic dad, even my serious tones seem like a joke.

And I am the one that has taught her all of her English swear words, including the 's' word and the 'f' word. I never thought I'd be such a bad influence. She is also pretty bossy. She doesn't ask for milk. She demands it. 'I want milk. I want it.' And she won't give up until she gets it. She is the boss. And if she doesn't want to take a bath or go to sleep. Well, she doesn't take a bath or go to sleep. This can't all be my influence. Marta is also the eldest sibling and I think in this manner she has one other big influence. Her mother (she's the boss in the center).

Friday, February 10, 2006

Yes, Veruca

"Schnozberry? Who's ever heard of a schnozberry?"

Work has been demanding lately. For those of you unaware I am a journalist who writes about biotechnology, yet knows little about business and even less about biology. It's a challenging role. So I was a bit cranky when I staggered home last night (and it's cold out there on our little strip of land).

One of Marta's favorite things to do is feed the DVD/VCR player. Because I am on occasion a dull and remote father (see previous paragraph), she likes to do this more when I have parked my caboose on the couch. Yesterday the question came, "where the train movie?" The train movie is Polar Express starring Tom Hanks. She watches it everyday. It's a good film in that it is never abrasive or annoying. You really can watch it over and over again and not mind it. Marta certainly can. But we couldn't find it. Then I saw the video cassette sticking out of the VCR slot and realized that she had put the train movie in the wrong whole then put the tape in on top of it.

When I finally got it out it was scratched up pretty bad. I thought it was another DVD that Marta loves that she had ruined (she broke her copy of Kiki's Delivery Service too). Thankfully, the train movie still worked when we put it in. But little Veruca then decided it would be fun to bang the recorder we have (the instrument) against the wall for awhile. Then she demanded that I get her more bread and butter and milk. And everything else. And I complied.

They're Here

One of the funny adventures we had since we moved in came the first night. I have always been a bit paranoid about moving into a possessed house. I've never actually seen a ghost, although I've had some weird experiences. One time in Grenoble, France Epp and I both felt a presence in our room and sort of got these impressions of a tortured woman who had died there. When we moved to Hoboken I saw that there was a picture of a hand and a cross on our door that had been painted over with some Latin mumbojumbo. That sort of freaked me out. (Religion scares me).

So on our first night here, two weeks ago, in the middle of the night I woke up and heard the distinct sound of television static. I went into the living room down the hall and the TV was on - obviously turned on by our munchkin. So I went to see where she was because she wasn't in the TV room. But she wasn't in her bed either. Now I got really scared and awoke my wife who also came hunting for her. I thought that maybe she had been sucked into the television like Carol Anne in Poltergeist, but no. We found her on the couch. I thought she was asleep, but Epp says she was whispering "Marta's House."

Having a Rave-Up

The other day I came home and I was in a good mood. So I put on some music to continue that mood. I chose the Yardbirds BBC sessions, which is a compilation of about 27 sessions they did between 1965 and 1968 for the BBC. The earlier stuff is by far better and less serious, and that's what it started with.

As soon as the Yardbirds began playing their tinny Brit-boy blues, Marta started dancing around in circles. Usually I have to encourage people to dance to the Yardbirds. In this era of booty-shaking, bass-driven anthems, they just don't "get" how to dance to old R&B music. It's sort of like the twist - that's how you do it. Marta likes to run around in circles. I have a video of her dancing to the Beastie Boys from when she was less than a year old. And at my friend Becky's wedding she was just aggressive as hell on the dance floor. She knows how to dance.

Anyway I love her for that. Thanks, Marta.

Marta Maria
Speaking of music, I have written a very lovely bossanova song about Marta called "Marta Maria." I am not sure how to feel about writing a sort of romantic-sounding song about my daughter, but lot's of artists have written songs about their offspring: see John Lennon's "Beautiful Boy", Madonna's "Little Star", etc. There's a great article about rock stars having kids published just this month. Some choice moments from the female writer:

But then, fatherhood is so much less intense than motherhood. Fathers don’t carry their children. They don’t provide their babies’ sole source of food in the first few months. They can wander in to the nursery, administer a few coochy-coos and amble off again, perhaps to write a song about it. Had Ian Broudie from The Lightning Seeds been wallowing in the depths of sleep deprivation, would he have written a song as exuberantly carefree as The Life Of Riley? Has there ever been a more rose-tinted view of parenthood than Simply Red’s For Your Babies? Can you imagine two more mutually exclusive terms than ‘Mick Hucknall’ and ‘devoted father’?

Ha ha. That's why I don't write rock songs nor aspire to being someone in that idiom. The bossa nova singer can father many children with little conflict. Because it's not about angst or conflict, it thrives on sappy emotions ;) But it's true that it changes your creative outlook. I guess. Different people use different metaphors. Have you noticed how Paul McCartney uses flying metaphors all the time. "Wings", "Blackbird", "Bluebird", "Jet", "Jenny Wren"? I like to talk about cities and locations and, of course, food. But "Marta Maria"'s second line is "Porto Alegria" - which roughly translates to "harbor of joy" or "door to happiness." I have a friend in Brazil working with me on the lyrics, but they will mostly be about different cities and feelings and using the idea of a harbor city as a metaphor for Marta's young life. Anyway. Those are my thoughts. See you soon.